Sunday, June 30, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting June 2013: Liz Coley Author Visit

This month’s COSCBWI meeting featured YA author, Liz Coley.  Liz’s novel, Pretty Girl 13, was just released in March 2013.  Like many other authors, Liz’s path to publication was no walk in the park, and she started writing in 2000 before earning her first book deal in 2011.  Liz loves sharing her writing knowledge, and she has a great four-step cycle to help writers make their work shine before submission.

Some of the points she discussed included:

1) Story
-Does you story start and end well?  Does your first page and chapter hook the reader, and is the end satisfying?  Is there a strong story arc?  If your answer is "no" to any of these questions, you may need to work on your plot and characterization to tell the story in a more effective way.

2) Color
-Did you use enough words to paint your story?  Once the plot is solid, you need to make sure your writing is interesting and engaging.  You don’t want your story to be a laundry list of plot points.  (For example: Joey went to the store to buy eggs.  He forgot his money.  A nice lady offered to buy them for him.  Joey was happy.  The end.  BORING!)

-Look for places where you can integrate descriptions (people, places, etc.), and add in dialogue tags and beats that will bring life to your writing.

3) Texture
-Now that you have enough words, did you use the best ones?

-Check for any overuse of adverbs (sadly, happily, angrily, etc.), and replace with stronger verbs.  (“She said meanly,” can be rewritten as, “She growled/snarled/snapped/etc.”)

-Cut your “waffle words”—those non-committal words that make writing weak.  These include words like almost, nearly, tried, began, etc.  (For example, “She began to walk,” can just be, “She walked.”)

-Don't forget to check for any other words you may overuse.  (I'm often guilty of overusing "looked!")

4)  Mechanics
-Now that your writing shines, did you get the grammar, spelling, and punctuation right?  (You don’t want to send any work to agents or editors that is full of mistakes!)

-If you aren’t skilled at self-editing, ask a trusted friend or colleague to proofread it.  Reading your work out loud will also help you catch more errors.

Liz said that once you complete this cycle, your work should be squeaky clean!  But sometimes, changing your work during one step (like the story) can result in other changes that you’ll need to make to your manuscript.  Don’t be afraid to wash, rinse, and repeat this cycle!

After Liz’s presentation, she answered group questions and talked a bit about her writing process.  (She also showed the collection of foreign book covers for Pretty Girl 13.  They were fascinating!)  Now, the group members are ready to get back to their manuscripts and apply Liz’s revision cycle!  

You can find out more about Liz and her books at  If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the website at or “like” the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the July meeting!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the summary! Sounds like it was an interesting presentation.